When a first film--especially a locally produced, very low-budget film--doesn't ring your bell, the tempting course as a critic is simply to ignore it, under the assumption that bad press isn't always better than no press at all.
Fortunately, Joseph Alexandre, the Dallas-based writer, director, editor, and co-star of the independent thriller Psychotropic Overload, is such a relentless self-promoter that he believes any press is good press.
So before I tell you about him, I'll tell you that I didn't like his movie at all. It's a free-form, heavily abstracted work about a therapist (David Wittman) whose new patient, a fashion photographer (Alexandre), endures violent nightmares that just happen to coincide with the mysterious disappearance of male models in the area. While a tough cop (John Thomas) tries to unravel the slayings, the shrink and his patient develop one of those perverse symbiotic relationships that are part and parcel of the thriller game.
But the director isn't content to retell an oft-told story. Using techniques that predate Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers (the feature was shot in mid-1993 and released earlier this year), Alexandre mixes several kinds of film and video stock and intercuts between them rapidly so you can't keep a grip on filmic reality. But there seems to be no rhyme or reason to these stylistic shifts, and the picture's dreadful postdubbing often seems to bear no relation to who is speaking or what's happening onscreen. As a result, following the narrative is a chore, and maintaining even basic interest in what happens next is a Sisyphean task. The film is dreamlike in the purest sense--and the worst sense, because dreams unfiltered by artistic precision rarely hold one's attention for long.
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But the film looks and feels like no other local indie feature I've seen, which certainly counts for something. Alexandre, a local production assistant and the son of a Hockaday French teacher, spent $7,000 of his own money on the movie, and he also invested plenty of creative commitment and sweat equity in getting the thing finished. His movie has been favorably reviewed by The Met and is about to be blurbed by the obnoxious but popular 'zine Film Threat. So it probably shouldn't have surprised me that he'd bombard me with phone calls and lengthy handwritten letters requesting some sort of notice in Rushes.
So here it is, Joseph. If bad press really is better than no press, here's something better. And if raw persistence made careers in the film industry, you'd have a three-picture deal by now.
(The film is available for rent at Tapelenders in Oak Lawn, Cox Video in Lewisville, Premiere Video on Royal Lane in Dallas, and Forbidden Books in Exposition Park.)
--Matt Zoller Seitz